Gay groups praise Navy's condemnation of videos

Navy Capt. Owen Honors appears in one of a series of profanity-laced videos that were shown on the USS Enterprise.
Navy Capt. Owen Honors appears in one of a series of profanity-laced videos that were shown on the USS Enterprise. (Virginian-pilot Via Associated Press)
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Navy moved quickly on Monday to pledge to investigate videos in which a senior officer uses anti-gay slurs and mimicks masturbation, while a prominent gay rights group praised the military's condemnation of the videos.

Capt. Owen Honors, who commands the USS Enterprise, based in Norfolk, Va., stars in the videos that were aired on the aircraft carrier's closed-circuit television system in 2006 and 2007 when he was the ship's second in command. In recent days, the videos have made Honors an Internet sensation.

"What we see here is, unfortunately, a 49-year-old Navy captain acting like a 19-year-old fraternity boy," said Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, which has advocated for gay military members. "There is no place for that type of frat-house behavior."

Honors appeared in the videos while he was the USS Enterprise's executive officer. He took command of the ship, which is expected to deploy soon, in May. The officer who captained the ship in 2006 and 2007 has been promoted to rear admiral.

It is not clear why the videos are surfacing now or whether the Navy investigated the videos earlier and decided to promote Honors to the USS Enterprise's top job despite their content.

But once the videos surfaced on the Internet, the Navy moved quickly to condemn them.

"Production of videos, like the ones produced four to five years ago on USS Enterprise and now being written about in the Virginian-Pilot, were not acceptable then and are not acceptable in today's Navy," said Cmdr. Chris Sims, a Navy spokesman. "The Navy does not endorse or condone these kinds of actions. Those in command . . . are charged to lead by example and are held accountable for setting the proper tone and upholding the standards of honor, courage and commitment that we expect sailors to exemplify."

It is unlikely that the videos, which include several anti-gay slurs, will have any effect on the Pentagon's efforts to allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly. "Most of your service members are professionals," Sarvis said. "I don't see any implications to transitioning to openly gay service for gays and lesbians."

The Pentagon hasn't said how long it will take to clear the way for gays to serve openly in the military after Congress voted last month to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" law.

The Virginian-Pilot newspaper quoted anonymous crew members who said they raised concerns aboard the ship about the videos when they aired but were brushed off.

In the introduction to the video, posted by the newspaper, Honors says: "Over the years I've gotten several complaints about inappropriate material during these videos, never to me personally but, gutlessly, through other channels."

In the same segment, he uses a derogatory term for gays.

The Virginian-Pilot reported on the videos in its Saturday editions and posted an edited version of one video on its Web site.

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